KATIE MULDOON: I’ve noticed only one major creative trend in business-to-business catalogs lately: varnished covers. Many business mailers are applying a coating of a varnishlike substance to the cover while the catalog is being printed – just like putting on a sixth or fifth color.
Computer image and typography software cataloger EyeWire Studios is a good example of a b-to-b mailer that puts out attractive catalog covers made even more striking by varnishing. This coating not only intensifies the look of the cover, but it also gives the whole catalog a more upscale appearance and creates the image that the book is meant to be retained.
Some marketing techniques are making business catalogs look a little more promotional. For example, there’s been increased use of ink-jetting on the cover of many b-to-b catalogs. Office supplies cataloger Viking is probably the leader in ink-jetting. The company often uses cover messages that recap past purchases and promote savings on those same items.
Offering and promoting low prices is important in many b-to-b product categories – especially the computer market – so we’re seeing more promotional blurbs on covers. For instance, industrial cleanup products cataloger New Pig mailed a recent issue that prominently promoted special offers on the cover.
MICHAEL FOSSO: I would have to say that the biggest creative change in b-to-b has been low cost technology. Innovations such as direct-to-plate printing, portable document file (PDF) work flows, and digital photography have enabled us to reduce costs – and at the same time, to improve our catalog creative.
At S&S we target three specific markets: recreation, education, and healthcare. Our markets are very competitive, so as with any other cataloger, it’s important that we grab the reader’s eye with attractive photography and benefit driven copy. Now that we’ve switched to digital photography, with its lower costs, we have a little more money to spend on making the books look better.
For instance, we are increasing our use of models and location shoots. Our models are all age correct, depending on the target market. In our S&S Opportunities catalog, which sells products for physically challenged adults and children, we use models who are physically challenged. We also often use models with Down’s Syndrome where appropriate in the Opportunities catalog, because we think it’s important to show true-to-life models in a positive way, benefiting and enjoying our products.
Because we market so heavily to youth in the recreation and education markets, we tend to use a lot of primary colors and bright photography. Our S&S Brite Start catalog, which sells products for children in the kindergarten-third grade age range, prints on a heavier paper stock, which really enhances the colors. Many of our products cross markets, so we have to rewrite the copy to the specific market and reshoot the photography with the age correct models.
STEPHEN R. LETT: While ink-jet messaging is nothing new, more and more business mailers are using it as part of their creative. I’ve seen more highly personalized and targeted ink-jet messaging on the front cover of catalogs – and it’s no longer just the biggest catalogers doing it.
For example, business stationery cataloger The Drawing Board uses customer data to target specific messages to its buyers. If a customer has had a history of buying personalized address labels, the cataloger will ink-jet a special offer or reminder about this product on the front cover of the book, using the customer’s name as part of the message.
Personalization techniques such as ink-jetting help business-to-business catalogs build a strong bond with their customers with a highly targeted marketing and creative approach. This enhances the relationship with that buyer and helps sell more products.